A Word in Season to Suffering Saints

The special presence of God with His people,
in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses,
and most deadly dangers.

By Thomas Brooks, London, 1675

We shall now come to the
application or useful improvement of this great and seasonable truth. Explanation is the drawing of the bow—but application is the hitting of the mark, the bulls-eye. Is it so, that when the people of the Lord are in great troubles, deep distresses, and most deadly dangers, that then the Lord will be favorably, specially, and eminently present with them? Then let me briefly give these ten INFERENCES.

[1.] First, That the saints are a people of Christ's special care. 2 Chron. 16:9, "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro through the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of those whose heart is perfect towards him." The words contain,

(1.) The UNIVERSALITY of God's providence. His eyes walk the rounds, they run to and fro through the whole earth, to defend and secure the sincere in heart. Diana's temple was burnt down when she was busied at Alexander's birth, and could not be at two places together; but God is present at all times, in all places, and among all people, and therefore his church, which is his temple, can never suffer because of his absence, 1 Cor. 3:16, and 6:19. The Egyptians had an idol called Baal-Zephon, which is by interpretation, Lord of the watch-tower, Exod. 14:2; his office was to frighten such fugitive Jews as should offer to steal out of the country; but when Moses and the people of Israel passed that way, and pitched their camp there, this drowsy god was surely fast asleep, for they all marched on their way without hindrance or molestation. Whereas he who keeps Israel "neither slumbers nor sleeps;" he kept his Israel then, and he has kept his Israel ever since: he made good his title then, and will make good his title still; he ever was, and he ever will be, watchful over his people for their good, Psalm 121:3-5; Isaiah 27:3-4.

(2.) The EFFICACY of God's providence. To show himself strong. God fights with his eyes as well as his hands; he does not only see his people's dangers—but saves them from dangers in the midst of dangers, Zech. 2:5. When the philosopher in a starry night was in danger of drowning, he cried out, "Surely I shall not perish; there are so many eyes of providence over me!" King Philip said he could sleep safely, because his friend Antipater watched over him. Oh, how much more may the saints sleep safely, who have always a God who keeps watch and ward about them Psalm 3:5-6. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe." Proverbs 18:10. God is so strong a tower that no cannon can pierce it, and he is so high a tower that no ladder can scale it, and he is so deep a tower that no subverter can undermine it; and therefore they must needs be safe and secure—who lodge within a tower so impregnable, so indomitable. Now this is the case of all the saints.

The fatherly care and providence of God is still exercised for the good of his people. "In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions. The Lord alone led him." Deuteronomy 32:10-12. [Isaiah 49:16, 31:5, and 32:1-2.] The eagle carries her young ones upon her wings, and not between her talons, as other birds do, but safely and swiftly; and so did God his Israel, being protective and watchful of them all the way, securing them also from their enemies, who could do them as little hurt as any do the eagle's young, which cannot be shot but through the body of the mother eagle, Isaiah 63:4-6, and 59:15.

See at what a rate God speaks in Isaiah 40:27-29, "Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God"? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak." Observe how God comes on with his piercing interrogatories, "Have you not known?" What an ignorant people! "Have you not heard?" What a deaf people!

1 Pet. 5:7, "Casting all your care upon him, for he cares for you." "I will now with you sing away care," said John Careless, martyr, in his letter to Mr. Philpot, "for now my soul is turned to her old rest again, and has taken a sweet nap in Christ's lap. I have cast my care upon the Lord, which cares for me, and will be careless according to my name."

God's providence extends to all his creatures; it is like the sun, of universal influence—but in a special manner it is operative for the safety of his saints. In common dangers men take special care of their jewels, and will not God; will not God take special care of his jewels? Mal. 3:17; Heb. 3:6; 1 Pet. 2:5. Surely, yes! The church of God is the house of God, and will not God take care of his house? Surely that shall be well guarded, whatever be neglected. His house is every moment within the view of his favorable eye, and under the guard of his almighty arm; his thoughts and heart is much upon his house. God has a peculiar and paternal care over his saints.

A God there is, whose providence does take
Care for his saints, whom he will not forsake.

"His eyes run," implying the celerity and swiftness of God in hastening relief to his people; "His eyes run through the whole earth," implying the universality of help. There is not a saint in any dark corner of the world, under any straits or troubles—but God eyes him, and will take singular care of him. God will always suit his care to his people's conditions, to which his eminent appearances for them in days of distress and trouble give special testimony. It is our work to cast care; it is God's work to take care. Let not us, then, take the Lord's work out of his hand. But,

[2.] Secondly, Will the Lord be specially present with his people in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers? Then here you may see the true reason why the saints are so comfortable, cheerful, and joyful in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers. It is because of that special presence of God with them. [Acts 5:40-41, and 16:25; Romans 5:3; 2 Cor. 7:4, and 12:10; 1 Pet. 4:12-14. These scriptures are already opened and improved.] It was this special presence of God with the martyrs, which made them rejoice in the midst of their greatest sufferings, and which made them endure great sufferings without any sensible feeling of their sufferings: as that young child in Josephus, who, when his flesh was pulled in pieces with pincers, by the command of Antiochus, said, with a smiling countenance, "Tyrant, you are wasting your time. Where are those sharp pains with which you threatened me? make me to shrink back and cry out if you can!" And Bainham, an English martyr, when the fire was flaming about him, said, "You papists talk of miracles; behold here a miracle. I feel no more pain than if I were in a bed of down; it is as sweet to me as a bed of roses." Surely their strength was not the strength of stones, nor their flesh of brass, Job 6:12, that they should not be sensible of so great sufferings; but this was only from that special presence of God, who made them endure grievous pains without pain, and most exquisite torments without torment, and sore sufferings without feeling of their sufferings, Heb. 11:33-39. And other choice souls there were, who, though they were sensible of their sufferings—yet by the divine presence, they were filled with unspeakable courage, comfort, and alacrity.

Laurence, when his body was roasted upon a burning gridiron, cried out, "This side is roasted enough; turn the other!" Marcus of Arethusa, a worthy minister, when his body was cut and lanced and coated with honey, and hung up aloft in a basket to be stung to death by wasps and bees; he, looking down cheerfully upon the spectators, said, "I am advanced, despising you who are below." And when we shall see poor, weak, feeble creatures like ourselves defying their tormentors and their torments, conquering in the midst of their greatest sufferings, and rejoicing and triumphing in the midst of their fiery trials; singing in prison, as Paul and Silas did; kissing the stake, as Henry Voes did; clapping their hands when they were half consumed in the flames, as John Noyes did; calling their execution-day their wedding-day, as Ridley did; we cannot but conclude that they had a singular presence of God with them, which made all their sufferings seem so easy and so light unto them.

Caesar cheered up his drooping mariners in a storm by reminding them of his presence; but, alas! alas! what was Caesar's presence, compared to this divine, this special presence that the saints have enjoyed in their greatest troubles and deepest distresses? But,

[3.] Thirdly, Will the Lord be specially present with his people in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers? Then from hence you may see the weakness, madness, sottishness, and folly of all such as make opposition against the saints; who affront and injure those who have the presence of the great God in the midst of them. Isaiah 8:9-10, and 27:4; 1 Cor. 1:25. O sirs! the weakness of God is stronger than men. What then is the strength of God? 1 Cor. 10:22, "Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?" Ah, who knows the power of his anger! Psalm 90:11. It is such that none of the potentates of the world, who set themselves against the saints, can avert or avoid, avoid or abide. That God is a mighty God, the Scriptures do abundantly evidence, and it appears also in the epithet, that is added unto El-, which imports that he is a God of prevailing might. By Daniel he is called El-Elim, "the mighty of mighties." Now what folly and madness is it for dust and ashes, for crawling worms, to make war against a mighty God; yes, an Almighty God, who can curse them, and crush them with a word of his mouth!

2 Chron. 32:7,8 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles." Gen. 49:25; Num. 24:4, 16; Ruth 1:20-21. The king of Assyria was at that time the greatest monarch in the world, and the most formidable enemy the church had—yet the divine presence was a sovereign antidote to expel all base slavish fears, which might arise in any of their hearts concerning his greatness, power, or multitude. What was that great multitude that was with the king of Assyria, compared to that innumerable company of angels which was with Hezekiah? [2 Kings 6:17; Pa. 34:7, etc., and 91:11; Heb. 12:22, and 1:14; Isaiah 37:29, 36-38.]

And what was an arm of flesh, compared to God's supreme sovereignty, that had this proud prince in chains, and that put a hook in his nose, and a bridle in his lips, and cut off his great army by the hand of an angel in one night, and left him to fall by the sword of his own sons? The Lord Almighty can crush the greatest armies in the world into atoms, at his pleasure. When the divine presence is armed against the great ones of the world—they must certainly fall. In Diocletian's time, under whom was the last and worst of the ten persecutions, though then Christian religion was more desperately opposed than ever—yet such was the presence of God with his people in those times, that Christianity prospered and prevailed more than ever; so that Dioclesian himself, observing that the more he sought to blot out the name of Christ—the more legible it became; and the more he sought to block up the way of Christ—the more passable it became; and whatever of Christ he thought to root out—the deeper it rooted, and the higher it rose; thereupon he resolved to engage himself no further—but retired to a private life. This is a good copy for the persecutors of the day to write after.

O sirs! what folly and madness is it for weakness to engage against strength, the creature against the Creator, an arm of flesh against the Rock of Ages! What is the chaff, compared to the whirlwind; stubble and straw, compared to the devouring flames? No more are all the enemies of Zion, compared to the great and glorious God, who is specially present with his people in their greatest troubles and deepest distresses, etc., Acts 5:38-40; Psalm 76:12, and 110:5-6; Rev. 6:14-16. There was not one of those persecuting emperors that carried on the ten bloody persecutions against the saints—but came to miserable ends; yes, histories tell us of forty-three persecuting emperors who fell by the hand of revenging justice; sooner or later, the presence of God with his people will undo all the persecutors in the world! But,

[4.] Fourthly, Will the Lord be specially present with his people in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers? Then from hence you may see the Lord's singular love and admirable kindness to his people in gracing them with his presence in their greatest troubles. "But now, O Israel, the Lord who created you says—Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!" Isaiah 43:1-3.

That is a friend indeed, who will stick close to a man in the day of his troubles, as Job's friend stuck close to him in the day of his troubles, and as Jonathan stuck close to David in his greatest dangers, and as the primitive Christians stuck close one to another, though with the hazard of their lives, and to the amazement of their enemies, Job 2:11-13; 1 Sam. 20:30-33. "Behold," said they, "how the Christians love one another," and stand by one another.

The people of God, in their greatest troubles, are a people of God's special love. When they are in distress, he lays them in his very bosom, and his "banner over them is love," Cant. 2:4. The love of God to his people is engraved upon the most afflictive dispensation they are under. When he smartly rebukes them, even then he dearly loves them, Rev. 3:19. "Hear you the rod," Mic. 6:9. Oh, God's rod speaks love. Many of the saints have read much of the Lord's love, written in letters of their own blood. They have read love in prisons, and love in flames, and love in banishment, and love in the cruelest torments their enemies could invent! When a Christian's wounds are bleeding—then God comes in with a healing plaster, Mal. 4:2. When a Christian is in a storm—then the presence of the Lord makes all calm and quiet within, Mat. 8:26. The presence of the Lord with his people in their troubles and distresses—speaks out the reality of his love, the cordialness of his love, the greatness of his love, and the transcendency of his love.

The truth and strength of relations' love one to another does best appear by their presence one with another, when any of them are in the iron furnace, or in bonds, or in great straits or needs, or deep distresses. The parents show most of their love to their sick and weak children by their daily presence with them; and the husband shows most of his dear and tender love by keeping his wife company when she is in greatest straits and dangers. Just so, here. But,

[5.] Fifthly, Will the Lord be specially present with his people in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers? Then this may serve to justify the saints, and to encourage the saints to write after this fair copy, which Christ has set them. Oh visit your distressed brethren! oh stand by them! oh stick close to them in all their troubles, distresses, and dangers. Let the same mind be in you, one towards another, as is in Christ towards you all. Are there any Jobs upon the ash-heap? Visit them! Are there any Pauls in chains? Find them out, and be not ashamed of their chains! "May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chain. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus." 2 Timothy 1:16-18. "He often refreshed me." Greek, "Poured cold water upon me." It is a metaphor taken from those who, being almost overcome with heat, are refreshed by cooling. "And was not ashamed of my chains." Learned antiquaries observe that the apostle at this time was not in prison with fetters—but in the custody of a soldier, with whom he might go abroad, having a chain on his right arm, which was tied to the soldier's left arm. Paul at this time was not in prison, for then Onesiphorus needed not to have made any great search to find him; but was a prisoner at large, going up and down with his keeper to despatch his affairs; and therefore he speaks not of chains in the plural number—but of a chain in the singular, with which he was tied to the soldier that kept him. It noways becomes the saints to be ashamed of the chains which may be found upon the ambassadors of Christ in an evil day. The primitive Christians were not ashamed of the martyrs' chains—but owned them in their chains, and stood by them in their chains, and frequently visited them in their chains, and freely and nobly relieved them and refreshed them in their chains: and will you, will you be ashamed to visit the saints in bonds? "Oh let not this be told in Gath, nor published in the streets of Askelon," 2 Sam. 1:20, that the high-flown professors and Christians of these times are ashamed to own, relieve, and stand by the saints in chains.

Just so, Mat. 25:36, "I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came unto me." [See Exod. 2:11-12, compared with Acts 7:23-29, only remember the case was extraordinary, and his call was extraordinary.] It is very remarkable that the last definitive sentence shall pass upon men, according to those acts of favor and kindness that have been showed to the saints in their suffering state; and that the sentence of absolution shall contain a manifestation of all their good works. In this great day Christ sees no iniquity in his people, he objects nothing against them, and he only makes honorable mention of the good that has been done by them. O sirs, all the visits you give to sick saints, and all the visits you give to imprisoned saints—Christ takes as visits given to himself! Suffering saints and you are brethren; and will you not visit your own brethren? suffering saints and Christ are brethren; and will you not visit Christ's brethren? suffering saints and you are companions; and will you not visit your own companions? suffering saints and you are traveling heaven-wards; and will you not visit your fellow-travelers? suffering saints and you are fellow-citizens; and will you not visit your fellow-citizens? suffering saints and you are fellow-soldiers; and will you not visit your fellow-soldiers? suffering saints and you are fellow-heirs; and will you not visit your fellow-heirs? [Mat. 25:40; John 20:17; Psalm 119:63; 2 Cor. 8:19; Eph. 2:19; Phil. 2:25; Romans 8:17.] Oh, never be ashamed of those whom Christ is not ashamed of! Oh, never fail to visit those whom Christ daily visits in their suffering state! Oh, never turn your backs upon those to whom Christ has given the right hand of fellowship! Oh, be not shy of them, nor strange to them whom Christ lays daily in his bosom! Oh, be not unkind to those, with whom one day you must live forever! But,

[6.] Sixthly, Will the Lord be specially present with his people in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers? Then never give way to base slavish fears! Psalm 51:12-13, and 46:1-3; Mat. 10:28, etc. There are as many fear nots in Scripture as there are fears. Take a taste of some of them—Heb. 13:5, "He has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you." Verse 6, "So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." This text is taken out of Psalm 118:6, "The Lord is on my side, I will not fear what man can do unto me." Some read it by way of interrogation, "What can man do unto me?" [The Earl of Murray, speaking of Mr. John Knox, said, Here lies the body of him who in his lifetime never feared the face of any man.] There is some difference in the apostle's quoting the text between the Hebrew and the Greek. The Hebrew thus reads it, "The Lord is with me," or for me; or as our English has translated it, "The Lord is on my side." The Greek thus, "The Lord is my helper." But the sense being the same with the Hebrew, the apostle would not alter that translation. The alteration which is in the Greek serves for an exposition of the mind and meaning of the psalmist; for God being with us, or for us, or on our side, presupposes that he is our helper. Just so, as there is no contradiction between the psalmist and the apostle—but a clear interpretation of the psalmist's mind; and a choice instruction thence arises —namely, that God's special presence with us, for us, or on our side, may abundantly satisfy us, and assure us that he will afford all needful help and support to us. The consideration of which should abundantly arm us against all base slavish fears.

God is not present with his saints in their troubles and distresses as a stranger—but as a father; and therefore he cannot but take such special care of them, as to help them, as to support them, and as to secure them from dangers in the midst of dangers, and therefore why should they be afraid? Isaiah 43:2. The Greek word that is translated helper in Heb. 13:6, signifies one who is ready to run at the cry of another. Now this notation implies a willing readiness and a ready willingness in God to afford all support and relief to his people in their greatest troubles and deepest distresses. Herein God shows himself like a tender father or mother, who immediately run when they hear the child cry, or see danger near.

Isaiah 8:10, "God is with us." Verse 12, "Do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it." The divine presence should arm us against all base slavish fears of men's power, policy, wrath, or rage. Kings and princes, compared with God, or with the special presence of God, are but as so many grasshoppers, skipping and hopping up and down the field; and does it befit Christians who enjoy this divine presence to be afraid of grasshoppers? Isaiah 40:22.

Isaiah 41:10, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." God expects that his special presence with us should arm us against all base fear and dismayedness. Psalm 23:4, "Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me." The divine presence raised David above all his fears; Psalm 27:1, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?" Who is the enemy that I should be afraid of? where is the enemy that I should be afraid of? by what name or title is the enemy dignified or distinguished that I should be afraid of? I look before me and behind me, I look round about me and I look at a distance from me, and I cannot see the man, the devil, the persecutor that I should fear or be afraid of—for God is with me.

We may safely, readily, and cheerfully set the divine presence against all our enemies in the world. Ah, Christians, Christians, look about you, look about you, and see who is specially present with you—and then be afraid if you can! But,

[7.] Seventhly, Will the Lord be specially present with his people in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers? Then certainly there is no such great evil in troubles, distresses, sufferings, etc., as many conceive, fear, dream, think, judge. Many men look upon troubles, afflictions, sufferings, in a magnifying glass, and then they cry out, "There is a lion in the way! There is a lion in the streets!" Proverbs 22:13, and 26:13. But, sirs, the lion is not always so fierce as he is painted, nor are afflictions always so grievous as men apprehend. There are many who have been very fearful of prisons, and have looked upon a prison as a hell on this side hell, who when they have been there for righteousness' sake, and the gospel's sake—they have found prisons to be palaces, and the imaginary hell to be a little heaven unto them.

Many fear afflictions, and flee from afflictions as from toads and serpents, as from enemies and devils; and yet certainly there is no such great evil in affliction as they apprehend, for the Lord is specially present with his people in their greatest troubles and deepest distresses. Now what evil can there be in that condition wherein a man enjoys the divine presence—which makes every bitter sweet, and every burden light, and which turns winter nights into summer days, etc.? Yes, many times the saints enjoy more of the singular presence of God in their afflictions, in their day of adversity—than ever they did in the day of prosperity, or in the day of their worldly glory. What bride is afraid to meet her bridegroom in a dark entry, or in a dirty lane, or in a narrow passage, or in a secret forest? And why then should a Christian be afraid of this or that afflicted condition, who is sure to meet his blessed bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ, in every state, in every condition, who is sure to enjoy the presence of Christ with him in every turn or change that may pass upon him?

How many martyrs have ventured into the very flames to meet with Christ, Heb. 11:34, and who have many other ways made a sacrifice of their dearest lives, and all to meet with Christ! Oh the cruel mockings, the scourgings, the bonds, the imprisonments, the stoning, the sawing asunder—which many of the Lord's worthies have ventured upon, and all to meet with the presence of the Lord! And why then should any of you be afraid to enter into an afflicted condition, where you shall be sure to meet the singular presence of the Lord, which will certainly turn your afflicted condition into a comfortable condition? Rev. 12:11, and Heb. 11:36-38.

The great design of the Lord in afflicting his people—is to meet with them, and to draw them into a nearer communion with himself. It is that they may see more of him than ever, and taste more of him than ever, and enjoy more of him than ever; in order to which he subdues their corruptions by afflictions, and strengthens their graces, and heightens their holiness by all their troubles and trials, Isaiah 1:25, 27:8-9; Heb. 12:10-11; Hosea 2:14. Whenever he leads his spouse into a wilderness, it is that he may speak friendly and comfortably to her, or that he may speak to her heart, as the Hebrew runs. The great design of the Lord in bringing her into a wilderness was that he might make such discoveries of himself, of his love, and of his sovereign grace, as might cheer up her heart, yes, as might even make her heart leap and dance within her. Or, as some sense it, "I will take her alone for the purpose, even into a solitary wilderness, where I may more freely impart my mind to her," that she having her whole desire she may come up from the wilderness leaning upon her beloved, Cant. 8:5, and so be brought into the bride-house with all solemnity. By all which it is most evident, that there is no such evil in a wilderness estate, in an afflicted condition, as many imagine. But,

[8.] Eighthly, Will the Lord be specially present with his people in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers? Then what a high encouragement should this be to poor sinners to study Christ, to acquaint themselves with Christ, to embrace Christ, to choose Christ, to close with Christ, to submit to Christ, and to make a resignation of themselves to Christ, and to secure their saving interest in Christ, that so they may enjoy his special presence in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers, John 1:12; Psalm 112:2-3, and 2:12; 2 Cor. 8:5.

Oh, how many mercies are enrapt up in this mercy of enjoying the singular presence of the Lord in all the troubles and trials of this life! Psalm 23:4. It is a mercy to have the presence of a friend, it is a greater mercy to have the presence of a near and dear relation with us in a day of distress, in a day of darkness; but what a mercy is it then to have the presence of the Lord with one in a dark day! That is excellent counsel that the wisest prince who ever swayed a scepter gives, in Eccles. 11:8, "Remember the days of darkness, for they shall be many." When light shall be turned into darkness, pleasure into pain, delights into wearisomeness, calms into storms, summer days into winter nights, and the lightsome days of life into the dark days of old age and death; oh, now the singular presence of the Lord with a man in these days of darkness will be a mercy more worth than ten thousand worlds!

To have a wise, a loving, a powerful, a faithful friend to own us in the dark, to stand by us in the dark, to uphold us in the dark, to refresh us in the dark, to encourage us in the dark, etc., is a very choice and singular mercy, Psalm 71:20-21. Oh then, what is it to have the presence of God Almighty with us in all those dark days which are to pass over our heads! What David said of the sword of Goliath in another case, "There is none like it!" 1 Sam. 21:8-9, that I may say of the divine presence with a man in the dark, "There is none like it!" The psalmist hit the mark, the bulls-eye, when he said, "My flesh and my heart fails: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever." When his "flesh," that is his outward man, and when his "heart," his courage, that is his inward man, failed him, then God was "the strength of his heart," or "the rock of his heart," as the Hebrew runs. At the very last gasp God came in with his sovereign cordial, and revived him and recovered him, and brought new life and strength into him. When a saint is at worst, when he is at lowest, when he is even overwhelmed with troubles and sorrows, and when the days of darkness so multiply upon him that he seems past all hope of recovery, then the divine presence does most gloriously manifest itself and display itself in supporting, strengthening, comforting, and encouraging of him!

In Rev. 4:6, you read that the world is like a sea of glass, "I saw before the throne a sea of glass." The world is transitory, very frail and brittle as glass, and it is unstable, tumultuous, and troublesome as the sea. Here the world is shadowed out to us by a sea of glass; and how can we stand on this sea, how can we live on this sea, how can we walk on this sea—if Christ doesn't take us by the hand, and lead us and support us and secure us? O sirs, we cannot uphold ourselves on this sea of glass, nor can others uphold us on this sea of glass; it is none but dear Jesus, it is no presence but his singular presence, which can make us to stand or go on this sea of glass. And if this world be a sea of glass, oh what infinite cause have we to secure our saving interest in Christ, who alone can pilot us safely over this troublesome, dangerous, and tempestuous sea!

Oh, that I could prevail with poor sinners to take Christ into the ship of their souls, that so he may pilot them safely into the heavenly harbor, the heavenly Canaan. No pilot in heaven or earth can land you on the shore of a happy eternity, from off this sea of glass—but Jesus. When on this sea of glass the winds blow high, storms arise, and the huge waves beat into the ship, oh then the sinner cries, "A kingdom for a Christ," a world for a pilot to save us from eternal drowning! Oh, that before eternal storms and tempests beat upon poor sinners, they would be prevailed with to close with Christ, to accept of Christ, and to enter into a marriage-covenant, a marriage-union with Christ; that so they may enjoy his singular presence with them while they are on this sea of glass, Psalm 11:6, and 9:17; Hosea 2:19-20; 2 Cor. 11:2.

There is no presence so greatly desirable, so absolutely necessary, and so exceeding sweet and comfortable, as the presence of Christ; and therefore, before all and above all, secure this presence of Christ by matching with the person of Christ, and then you will be safe and happy on a sea of glass. But,

[9.] Ninthly, Will the Lord be specially present with his people in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers? Then let me infer that unbelief, infidelity, and despondency of spirit in an evil day, does very ill befit the people of God. Is the Lord present with you in your greatest troubles, and will you waver in your faith, and be crestfallen in your courage, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall? Isaiah 25:4. What is this but to tell all the world that there is more power in your troubles to sink and daunt you, than there is in the presence of the Lord to support and encourage you? When a Christian is upon the very banks of the Red Sea—yet then the divine presence should encourage him "to stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord," Exod. 14:13. It would be good for timorous Christians in an evil day to dwell much upon the prophet's commission: Isaiah 35:3, "Strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart—Be strong, fear not!" Ah—but how shall weak hands be strong, and a timorous heart cease to fear and faint? Why, Behold, your "God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you!" He is on his way, he will be suddenly with you; yes, he is already in the midst of you, and he will save you.

If you cast but your eye upon precious promises, if you cast but your eye upon the new covenant, which is God's great storehouse, there you will find all supports, all supplies, all helps, and all comforts, laid up, and laid in for you; and therefore never despond, never faint, never be discouraged in an evil day, in a dark time. [Isaiah 41:10, and 13:2; Heb. 13:5; Jer. 32:40-41, 31:31-38; Gen. 41:35-36, 48-49; Col. 1:19, and 2:8.] As Joseph had his storehouses to give a full supply to the Egyptians in time of famine, so dear Jesus, of whom Joseph was but a type, has his storehouses of mercy, of goodness, of power, of plenty, of bounty, out of which in the worst of times he is able to give his people a full supply according to all their needs; and therefore be not discouraged, do not despond in a day of trouble.

O my friends, how often has the Lord hid you in the secret of his presence, from the pride of men, and kept you secretly in his pavilion from the strife of tongues! Psalm 27:5, and 31:20. "And therefore be strong, and lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees," Heb. 12:12. When David was in a very great distress, he neither desponds nor gives way to unbelief—but encourages himself in the Lord his God, 1 Sam. 30:6. The Hebrew word is derived from Chazack, which notes a laying hold on God with all his strength, as men do when they are in danger of drowning, who will suffer anything rather than let go their hold. When David was almost under water, when he was in danger of drowning, then, by a hand of faith, he lays hold on the Rock of Ages, and encourages himself in the Lord his God.

What heavenly gallantry of spirit did good Nehemiah show from that divine presence which was with him in that great day of trouble and distress, when "the remnant of the captivity were in great affliction and reproach: and the wall of Jerusalem broken down, and the gates thereof burnt with fire!" Neh. 1:3. You know Shemaiah advises him to take refuge in the temple, because the enemy had designed to fall upon him by night and slay him, and cause the work to cease; but Nehemiah, having a special presence of God with him, gives this heroic and resolute answer, "Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life?" Neh. 6:10-11. I will not go in. Should I flee into the temple like a malefactor to take sanctuary there, how would God be dishonored, religion reproached, the people discouraged, the weak scandalised, and the wicked emboldened to insult and triumph over me! saying, "Is this the man who is called by God, and qualified by God, for this work and service? Is this the man who is blessed and encouraged by the king to build the walls, and gates, and city of Jerusalem? Neh. 2:5-10. Is this the man who is the chief magistrate and governor of the city? Is this the man who is sent and set for the defense of the people, and that should encourage them in their work? Oh what a mouth of blasphemy would be opened, should I make a base retreat into the temple to save my life! I have found the face of God, the presence of God, in bowing the heart of king Artaxerxes, to contribute his royal aid, and commission me to the work; and in the bending of the hearts of the elders of the Jews to own my authority, and to rise up as one man to build; and therefore I will rather die upon the spot than go into the temple to save my life"

O my friends, it does not befit those who have the presence of God with them in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers—to sink so low in their faith and confidence, as to cry out with the prophet's servant, "Alas, master! what shall we do?" or, with the disciples when in a storm, "We perish!" or, with the whole house of Israel, "Our our hope is lost!" or, with weeping Jeremiah, "My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord!" or, with Zion, "The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me!" 2 Kings 6:15; Mat. 8:25; Ezek. 37:11; Lam. 3:18; Isaiah 49:14. Oh, it is for a lamentation when God's dearest children shall manifest unbelief by a fainting, sinking, discouraged spirit in an evil day. But,

[10.] Tenthly and lastly, Will the Lord be specially present with his people in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers? Then let the people of the Lord be very thankful for his presence with them in their greatest troubles, etc., Exod. 33:13-16; 2 Tim. 4:22; Psalm 16:11. O Sirs! this divine presence is a great mercy. It is a peculiar mercy, it is a distinguishing mercy, it is a big-bellied mercy, it is a mercy that has many mercies in its womb. It is a mercy-greatening mercy; it greatens all the mercies we enjoy. It is a mercy-sweetening mercy; it sweetens health, strength, riches, honors, trade, relations, liberty, etc. It is a soul-mercy, a mercy that reaches the soul, that cheers the soul, that lifts up the soul, that quiets the soul, that satisfies the soul, and that will go to heaven with the soul, Eph. 1:3. And will you not be thankful for such a mercy? Will you be thankful for temporal mercies, and will you not be thankful for spiritual mercies? Will you be thankful for left-handed mercies, and will you not be thankful for right-handed mercies? Will you be thankful for the mercies of the footstool, and will you not be thankful for the mercies of the throne? Will you be thankful for the mercies of this lower world, and will you not be thankful for the mercies of the upper world? Psalm 103:1-4. To enjoy the presence of God when we most need it, is a mercy that deserves perpetual praises.

Oh, it is infinite mercy not to be left alone in a day of trouble. It is very uncomfortable to be left alone: "Woe to him who is alone," Eccles. 4:10-11. If a man falls, and is left alone, who shall help him up? If a man is in danger and alone, how miserable is his case! But this is the support and comfort of a Christian in all his difficulties, that he is never left alone; but his God is with him when he is at the lowest ebb, Heb. 13:5; Psalm 37:24, 31:3, 73:24; Exod. 33:2, 14-16. For God to afford us the presence of our friends in a day of trouble is a very great mercy; but what is it, then, to enjoy the presence of God in a day of trouble? What is the presence of a friend, a favorite, in a day of distress, compared to the presence of a prince? yes, what is the presence of an angel, compared to the presence of God in an evil day? To enjoy the presence of God in an afflicted condition is a more transcendent mercy than to enjoy the presence of twelve legions of angels in an afflicted condition. The divine presence is the greatest good in the world. It is life eternal; it is the bosom of God, the gate of glory, the beginning of heaven, the suburbs of happiness; and therefore be much in blessing of God, in admiring of God, for his presence with you in a dark and trying day.

There is no gall, no wormwood, no affliction, no judgment, compared to that of God's departing from a people, Lam. 3:19-20: Jer. 6:8, "Be instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from you, lest I make you desolate, a land not inhabited." When God departs, nothing follows but desolation upon desolation; desolation of persons, desolation of peace, of prosperity, of trade, and of all which is near and dear unto us: Hosea 9:12, "Though they bring up their children—yet will I bereave them, that there shall not be a man left; yes, woe also to them when I depart from them." All terrible threatenings are summed up in this, "Woe unto them—when I depart from them." Surely every woe to them; he put a sureness upon this "woe to them when I depart from them." As if the Holy Spirit should say, "What, do I threaten this or the other evil? The great evil of all, the rise of all evils—is God's forsaking of them." Hell itself is nothing else but a separation from God's presence, with the dreadful consequences thereof. And were hell as full of tears as the sea is full of water—yet all would not be sufficient to bewail the loss of that beatifical vision!

How miserable was Cain when cast off by God! Gen. 4; and Saul, when the Lord departed from him! It was a most dreadful speech of Saul, "I am greatly distressed, for the Philistines make war against me, and God has departed from me," 1 Sam. 28:15-16. [Those who are out of God's care, are under his curse.] When God left the Israelites, though for a little while, the Holy Spirit says they were naked, Exod. 32:25. How naked? Not for lack of raiment, or weapons of war—but for lack of God's presence and protection. When God departs from a people, that people lies naked; that is, they lie open for all storms, tempests, and dangers. Now if it is the greatest evil in the world to be shut out from the gracious presence of Christ—then it must be the greatest mercy in this world, to enjoy the gracious presence of God in our great troubles and desperate dangers. And therefore let all sincere Christians be much in thankfulness to the Lord, and in blessing and praising the Lord, for his special presence with them in their low and afflicted estate.

Oh, the light, the life, the love, the holiness, the peace, the grace, the comforts, the supports—which always attend the gracious presence of the Lord with his people in their deep distresses, etc. Therefore let the high praises of God forever be in their mouths, who enjoy this special presence of God.

The 46th Psalm is called by some Luther's psalm; that is a psalm that Luther was accustomed to call to his friends to sing when any danger, trouble, or distress was near. When the clouds began to gather, "Come, says Luther, let us sing the 46th Psalm, and then let our enemies do their worst!" Observe the confidence and triumph of the church in the face of the greatest dangers, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." Psalm 46:1-3, 7. Now mark, by the change of the earth and removing of the mountains, are often meant the greatest alterations and convulsions of states and polities, Hag. 2:22-23; Jer. 51:25; Rev. 6:14. Now, says the psalmist, all these dreadful turns, changes, shakings, and convulsions of states and kingdoms shall never trouble us, nor daunt us; they shall never make us fret, faint, or fear. Why, what is the ground? "The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress!" And also in verse 11, the same words are repeated again. "God is not gone, God is not withdrawn, God is not departed from us." Oh no! "The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress!" Therefore we are divinely fearless and divinely careless. Though hell and earth should combine against us—yet we will bear up, and be bold to believe that all shall go well with us; for God is in the midst of us, "The Lord Almighty is with us," even the Lord, who commands far greater armies than any enemy has. The God of Jacob is our fortress;" Heb., "Our high tower." God is a tower, so high, so strong, so inaccessible, so invincible, that all our enemies, yes, all the powers of darkness, can never hurt, reach, storm, or take; and therefore we who are sheltered in this high tower may well cast the gauntlet to our proudest, strongest, and subtlest enemies. And let thus much suffice for the inferences.